Warm ocean water is eroding the fastest-thinning sector of the Totten Glacier, the world’s largest ice sheet, according to a paper in the journal Nature Geoscience.
“The idea of warm ocean water eroding the ice in West Antarctica, what we’re finding is that may well be applicable in East Antarctica as well,” said study co-author Martin Siegert of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London. The floating ice shelf of the glacier, which measures 90 by 22 miles, is losing ice “equivalent to 100 times the volume of Sydney Harbour every year,” according to the Australian Antarctic Division.
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“A hundred years from now, humans may remember 2014 as the year that we first learned that we may have irreversibly destabilized the great ice sheet of West Antarctica, and thus set in motion more than 10 feet of sea level rise,” the Post reports.
“2015 could be the year of the double whammy—when we learned the same about one gigantic glacier of East Antarctica, which could set in motion roughly the same amount all over again.” And the resulting sea level rise will have a disproportionate impact on the northern hemisphere, Mooney writes.